Thursday, March 24, 2011

Road Warrior again puts driving foot in mouth

New Jersey license plate from 2007Image via Wikipedia
When reading the Road Warrior column, drivers often exclaim, Whaaaaat?

Can drivers rely on Staff Writer John Cichowski when he answers questions about New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission rules and regulations?

Not always. Just how often The Record's Road Warrior columnist gets it wrong isn't known, because he is the kind of journalist who doesn't think it's always necessary to publish a correction on Page A-2 when he screws up.

Instead, he will try to repair the damage in a subsequent column, in answer to another question on the same subject. This week, however, he compounded the problem. 

Flawed advice

On Wednesday, Chick, as he's known around the office, told the owner of a 16-year-old diesel-powered sedan, "As for inspection, all non-commercial passenger vehicles from model years 1997 and newer" must be tested for emissions [my italics].

But that may have led owners of gasoline-powered vehicles -- the vast majority -- from thinking they are exempt as well, if their cars are older than the 1997 model year.

That's not the case, according to the Motor Vehicle Commission Web site. There is a different standard for gasoline-powered cars, which must be taken for emissions testing if they are 5 years old "and older."

So, even if you drive a gasoline-powered car older than the 1997 model year, it must be tested. The Road Warrior apparently doesn't know there are different rules for diesel and gasoline engines. 

Previous error

Wednesday's answer to the driver of a diesel-powered sedan apparently was an attempt to repair an error Cichowski made in a March 2, 2011, column that discussed which cars are subject to mechanical and emissions testing:
"...There has been confusion, mostly among owners of vehicles with diesel engines, which — unlike gas-powered cars — are exempt even from emissions inspection."
You can't get any wronger than that, in light of what he said Wednesday.

So he messed up twice on the question of emissions testing. How many other times has he been unreliable? Can readers believe any advice he gives?

Another big question: Who is Cichowski's assignment editor -- the editor who reviews his column before it is sent over to the news copy desk? Is he or she asleep at the computer?  

Of course, you have to wonder just how much Cichowski knows about cars and their impact on the environment.

Sixteen-year-old diesel cars are prized by their frugal owners, but they are among the dirtiest vehicles on the road in terms of air pollution.

Another columnist for the Woodland Park daily, Bill Ervolino, neglected to tell readers on Tuesday the whole wheat spaghetti from Trader Joe's he described as "luscious" also is organic.

Today's paper

After the March 11 quake and tsunami, Editor Francis Scandale focused every day on a possible nuclear meltdown and virtually ignored the human drama in Japan and among Japanese residents of North Jersey, but he certainly hasn't neglected coverage of Glen Rock, where he lives.

Page 1 today carries the fourth or fifth story about the borough's sister-city relationship with Onomachi, Japan. 

The lead A-1 story today contains nothing on disgraced former state Sen. Joseph Coniglio, D-Paramus, making an appointment for a new hair piece now that his sentence has been shortened by a federal judge.

Scram, Mac

Below the fold, a story on the "Grandparent Scam" doesn't refer to the paper and how Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and other editors abhor stories on Alzheimer's disease, help for older drivers and other subjects of interest to seniors.

Nor is there any suggestion "Grandparent Scam" is a reference to how Publisher Stephen A. Borg treated his father and grandfather to his four sons, Chairman Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, after Stephen took over and pushed him aside.

On A-3 today, a story on Governor Christie and the state constitution's guarantee of a "thorough and efficient" education (T&E) would have been front-page news for any other editor but Scandale, whose focus is on T&A.

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